'Terror attack clips upset Israeli Arabs more than Jews'

Study shows that when viewing coverage of Palestinian terror attacks on TV, Arab Israelis feel significantly more threats to their own lives.

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January 12, 2011 05:00
2 minute read.
'Terror attack clips upset Israeli Arabs more than Jews'

dan bus terror attack 248 88. (photo credit: AP [file])

When viewing coverage of terror attacks on TV, Arab Israelis feel significantly more threats to their own lives than Jewish Israelis, according to a study carried out on students at the University of Haifa.

The feeling of helplessness and a loss of individual psychological resources scored 3.6 in Arabs who watched the TV clips, and just 2.65 among the Jews. The researchers headed by Prof.Moshe Zeidner said this difference was very significant.

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One possible explanation for the phenomenon is that Israeli Arabs may suffer dissonance in this situation, as they may identify at least partially with Palestinian goals but also realize that terror attacks are inhumane and horrible. Another is that Israeli Arabs may fear that in the wake of a terror attack, they will be looked down upon, criticized or even be a target for physical attacks by angry and anguished Jews.

The paper will be published in a few months in the British journal Personality and Individual Differences.

A total of 78 students – Jews and Arabs – who comprise a representative sample of Israelis, were shown TV clips of terror attacks or other political violence committed against Israelis.

All the clips had been broadcast on Israeli TV during the past decade. A control group viewed video clips showing other routine events but not violent ones that appeared on TV news.

The researchers, who included Prof. Hasi Ben-Tsur and Shlomit Reshef, said that according to their findings, just viewing terror on TV, without being personally involved or threatened, causes a reduction in psychological resources such as commitment, significance and feelings of success. This is liable to result in feeling threats on one’ s life and secondary trauma, they found.

“The mass media are a central factor in coverage of terror and political violence,” said Zeidner.

“Watching such coverage can have negative influences.”

The researchers concluded that this seeming threat to wellbeing existed even in people who were not actual victims but only watched it; these reported personally feeling bad moods and negative feelings, unlike the control group. They noted that people who are not personally exposed to psychological trauma can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) no less than actual victims.

While it is too early to speak about long-term impacts of watching reports about terror in the media, the new findings undoubtedly show that there are short-term effects, they concluded.

In an age when so many violent events reach our TV and computer screens immediately, “we must know the negative effects they have,” the researchers said.


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